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Work Begins To Turn Willow Square Into Reality

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

Work is underway to turn the long-awaited continuing care facility in downtown Fort McMurray into a reality.

On Friday, Premier Rachel Notley announced at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre construction is proceeding and on schedule on the $110 million Willow Square Continuing Care Centre.

“It surprised me no end that a city the size of Fort McMurray, that does what it does for the province of Alberta, has gone on as long as it has without proper longterm care and I’m so proud we’re able to be in the position now.”

The centre, which will be located at the corner of Hospital Street and Franklin Avenue, will have 144 spaces and room to expand as needed.

It is being designed and operated to provide housing and medical services and programs to seniors and younger individuals living with disabilities.

At one point the facility was planned for Parsons Creek, then the province announced in November of 2015 they will build it in Willow Square. At that time, over $11 million was already funded by the municipality.

Notley says work is expected to last wrap up in fall of 2019 and open to the public by the spring of 2020.

“They’ll have a modern new facility, one that will allow people to age safely and with dignity right here in their own community. The facility is designed to provide a great caring space, complete with a cafe, a library, a chapel, and an auditorium.”

240 jobs are being created with the construction of the facility, with over 120 full-time positions for care and support staff once it officially opens.

Facility A Long Time Coming

Premier Notley, Mayor Scott, and others officially break ground on the Continuing Care Centre // Jaryn Vecchio – Harvard Broadcasting

Smiles were on the faces of many people in attendance of the groundbreaking.

One such person was Joan Furber, President of the Golden Years Society, who is ecstatic to see this day come to fruition.

“They’re digging the hole, this is what we’ve been dreaming about, it’s in the right place it’s happening.”

The day was also bittersweet for Furber.

“Do you really think we should have a had a fight this hard – we should never have had to fight for what we deserve. Everywhere in Alberta, they have half-empty places and they wouldn’t even give us one.”

Councillor Phil Meagher was also overjoyed to finally see the project get started. He’s been one of the more vocals supporters of the project even growing his hair in protest at one point.

“I stuck to my word – it would have been great to be there with long hair with the shovels.”

“The seniors are happy, it’s a happy day.”